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Down the Rabbit Hole
by
Peter Abrahams

Publishing Information: Laura Geringer Books: New York, 2005
ISBN: 0060737018 / 0060737026 (Lib Bind) / 0060737034 (PB) / 0060786647 (Audio)
Pages
: 375 p.
Ages: 10 & Up

Summary:
Welcome to Echo Falls. Home of a thousand secrets, where Ingrid Levin-Hill, super sleuth, never knows what will happen next. Ingrid is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or at least her shoes are. Getting them back means getting involved in a murder investigation rivaling those solved by her idol, Sherlock Holmes, and Ingrid has enough on her plate with club soccer, school, and the plum role of Alice in the Echo Falls production of Alice in Wonderland. But much as in Alice's adventures down the rabbit hole, things in Ingrid's small town keep getting curiouser and curiouser. Her favorite director has a serious accident onstage (but is it an accident?), and the police chief is on Ingrid's tail, grilling her about everything from bike-helmet law to the color of her cleats. Echo Falls has turned into a nightmare, and Ingrid is determined to wake up.

Book Talk:
My name is Ingrid Levin-Hill, andI am sitting and waiting in the orthodontist’s office. You know you are born cute. Babies are cute. You grow a little older and then you hit twelve or thirteen and "Everything needs fixing." You need orthodontists, dermatologists, contact lens guy, hair tinting guy and nose job guy. You look in the mirror, I mean really look in the mirror and what do you see? Oh my Goodness.!!!! Well that is how my story starts in the Orthodontist’s office. When I was finished I made my next appointment and came out of the office, and I expected to see either my Mom or my Dad. But neither one of them was there. It was already 4:10 and soccer practice was at 4:30. If you miss a practice, you miss the game. That was Coach Ringer’s number one rule. Is there anything more boring than sitting on the bench for a whole game? It was now 4:15 and still no Mom or Dad. I had an inspiration! I could walk to soccer practice, I had never actually walked to soccer, but I had been driven millions of times. So I started running, I figured that I could just about make the 4:30 practice. I ran for a while and then I noticed the shabby old gingerbread houses, with their paint peeling, and grimy windows and… Whoa! There was no soccer fields, no hill, no hospital, and I think that I was lost!! The house nearest me was the worst of all. It was actually crooked to the eye and out came a woman with a shopping bag in her hand. She was tall even taller in the gold spike heels that she was wearing. She was also wearing a red and black checked lumberjack’s coat. Her hair had strips of foil stuck, like she was doing a coloring treatment. She asked me if I was lost and I said, "Not really" and she replied that I looked lost, like totally. She introduced herself as Katie, but I recognized her as Cracked-up Katie. She collected cans from trash barrels and bought stuff at the end of tag sales. Well, she invited me in to her house, decided that I needed a cab to get home. We talked for a while and I showed her my bright red Pumas with glittering red laces ordered especially for me. And then I took the cab and went to soccer. I managed to keep my whereabouts a secret from Mom and Dad, but then the front page of the paper announced that Cracked–up Katie had been murdered and my red Pumas were at the scene of the crime. And the police wanted to talk to anyone who had seen or spoken to Katie in the last few days. I just had to get those pumas out of that house. And that is the start of Ingrid’s adventures in playing detective in Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams.

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Acting
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Mysteries
Secrets
Sherlock Holmes
Soccer
Teenage Detectives

Awards & Reviews:
Agatha Award for Best Children's or Young Adult Mystery (TIE), 2006
Booklist Editor's Choice in Books for Youth (Older Reader's Category), 2005

Gr. 7-10. Thriller writer Abrahams crosses into youth territory in this rich, smoothly written mystery with a protagonist whose character is as substantial as her name and whose home and school experiences have the feel of real, sometimes messy middle-class life. When Ingrid Levin-Hill, 13, decides to run to soccer practice rather than wait for her ride, she gets lost in a not-so-nice part of town. Luckily, Cracked-Up Katie, one of Echo Falls’ oddballs, calls her a cab. Convinced that full disclosure will only cause a lecture, Ingrid keeps her secret. Imagine her shock when she learns that Katie has been murdered -- and Ingrid’s cleats are at the crime scene. It isn’t long before Ingrid starts feeling like Alice in Wonderland plunging down the rabbit hole. Homey details add enormously to the texture of the backdrop, and characters, including adults, are fully realized: Ingrid’s not above a snotty comeback when she is feeling ornery or sees through adult pretense; curmudgeonly Grampy puts VO in his tea and defies convention by teaching Ingrid target shooting; and there’s more to Joey Strade than his clumsy crush on Ingrid. Abrahams is concerned with adult motivations here, and his irony occasionally seems too arch for kids. But there’s also plenty of excitement and just-right humor (Mom’s constant concern about Ingrid’s retainer is classic) as Ingrid’s Alice-like curiosity pilots her, in bumbling stops and starts, right into the arms of a killer. Great start for the Echo Falls series. -- Stephanie Zvirin
Booklist, May 1, 2005, p1541 (Starred Review)

Impatient with mother for being late for her ride to soccer, Ingrid Levin-Hill, eighth-grade Sherlock Holmes fan and amateur actress, makes an impulsive decision to walk, inadvertently becoming a witness in the murder case of Cracked-up Katie, the weird lady in the rundown house on the wrong side of town. Ingrid is afraid to come forward with her first-hand knowledge, fearing her parents' reprimand for leaving the neighborhood. Landing the lead role as Alice in the town's playhouse production of "Alice in Wonderland," she becomes more curious about the playhouse's past performers and a possible connection to Katie's youth. As the police investigation gets further away from the truth and the wrong suspects are arrested, Ingrid takes increasingly daring risks to solve the case herself and eliminate the evidence she left behind indicating her own suspicious involvement. Abrahams has crafted a suspenseful page-turning drama complete with misleading clues and gutsy midnight escapades that make for thrilling intrigue right up to the culminating drowning-in-the-river scene. Ingrid's plucky, if not foolhardy, behavior will have readers both rooting and worrying for her simultaneously as she continues, like Alice, to fall deeper and deeper into the mystery's unfolding. Harrowingly absorbing.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2005

The charming 13-year-old heroine of Abrahams's (A Perfect Crime, for adults) murder mystery will guide readers through its many twists and turns. Ingrid Levin-Hill, who, like her hero Sherlock Holmes, is "a habitual noticer of little things," has just been cast as the lead in Alice in Wonderland when she finds herself in a different role -- murder detective. The corpse is that of "Cracked-Up Katie," whom Ingrid encountered when she attempted to get from her orthodontist to soccer practice ... and wound up five miles away in the poorest part of Echo Falls. The next day, the local paper states that Katie's body was found soon after Ingrid left her house; realizing she's left her red soccer cleats behind, Ingrid breaks in to retrieve them. But she's not the only one in Katie's house that evening. Ingrid's sleuthing is complicated by a budding romance with the police chief's son, and the dialogue crackles with wit -- Ingrid gets the best lines. It's disquieting, however, that big brother Ty, the football star, blackens Ingrid's eye in anger without repercussion, and many of the supporting characters are more fully developed than her nuclear family; the town's newspaper editor, her curmudgeonly Grampy and even Cracked-Up Katie come across as more convincing. And dropped threads abound (e.g., will Grampy stave off developers by populating his farmland with endangered eastern spadefoot toads?) Readers who stick with this intelligent, if overstuffed novel will be clamoring for answers ... and more of Ingrid. Ages 10-up.
Publishers Weekly, April 5, 2005, p60

Gr 6-9: An avid reader of Sherlock Holmes, Ingrid Levin-Hill, 13, is also a fleet-footed soccer player with a knack for stage acting, skills that come in handy when she finds herself caught in a police investigation following the murder of an eccentric woman. The deceased was associated with the Prescott Players, a local theater troupe in which Ingrid lands the title role in a production of Alice in Wonderland. Plot scenes incorporate play rehearsals, family life, middle school, and soccer games along with plenty of intriguing twists and mounting tension. Taking courage from her crusty grandfather, who refuses to sell his farm to an affluent developer, Ingrid acts with aplomb as she secretly undertakes a series of suspenseful adventures to track down the killer. She also maintains the cool-headedness to enjoy the friendship of the police chief's son, Joey Strade, while keeping the officers who'd like to question her at bay. Ingrid's poise, however, is tempered by her self-doubt and troubled dreams, making her a believable human. She and the other main characters are all solidly drawn, including the newest member of her family, a droopy-eyed dog named Nigel. Deft use of literary allusions and ironic humor add further touches of class to a topnotch mystery. --Susan W. Hunter, Riverside Middle School, Springfield, VT
School Library Journal, May 2005, p120

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. What was your first impression of Cracked-Up Katie? How did that change as Ingrid's investigation progressed?
  2. Were you surprised that Ingrid was able to go into Katie's home? Would you have done so?
  3. When Katie realized that she had left her unique soccer cleats at Katie's house, she decided to go and get them herself so she wouldn't be a murder suspect. Was this a good decision? What would you have done?
  4. Katie seems to really like Joey. As the book progresses, their friendship grows. Why do you think that she doesn't tell him about the trouble she is in? Why do you think she doesn't tell his father Chief Strade?
  5. Do you think your community is at all like Echo Falls? How is it different?
  6. What was your first impression of Vincent Dunn? How did that change as Ingrid's investigation progressed?
  7. What about the other members of the Prescott Players?
  8. What was the importance of the Philip Prescott and his family to the town? To the investigation?
  9. What is a red herring? Has Abrahams used one with this story?
  10. Why do Ingrid's parents fight so much?
  11. What do you think is wrong with Ingrid's brother?
  12. Would you have taken your grandfather's truck to run an errand like she does?
  13. Were you surprised abou twhat happened to Jill? Who did you think was at fault for the accident? Do you think differently now that you have finished the novel?
  14. What does Ingrid's grandfather do to the lake on his property? Why? What importance does it have to the town?
  15. What were the important clues that Ingrid found throughout her investigation? What is the importance of the file The Accused Will Rise and the playbill for Dial M for Murder?
  16. Who is David Vardack? What was his role in events?
  17. Would you have been able to do what Ingrid did?

Related Websites:
Author's Website - http://www.peterabrahams.com

Alice in Wonderland: An Interactive Adventure - http://www.ruthannzaroff.com/wonderland/

The Sherlock Holmes Museum - http://www.sherlock-holmes.co.uk

Sherlockians - http://www.sherlockian.net

"What is a Mystery" ThinkQuest - http://library.thinkquest.org/5109/What_a_Mystery.html

Read-a-Likes:
Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe, 2006
The Dark Corridor by Jay Bennett, 1988
Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator by Jennifer Allison, 2005
Gilda Joyce: The Ladies of the Lake by Jennifer Allison, 2006
Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery by John Feinstein, 2005
Vanishing Act: A Final Sour Mystery by John Feinstein, 2006

Minerva Clark Gets a Clueby Karen Karbo, 2005
Minerva Clark Goes to the Dogs by Karen Karbo, 2006
Snatched by Pete Hauteman 2006

Other Books by the Author:
Behind the Curtain: An Echo Falls Mystery, 2006
Into the Dark: An Echo Falls Mystery, 2008

Adult Books by the Author:
This Island, Now, 1967
The View from Coyaba, 1985
Hard Rain, 1988
Pressure Drop, 1989
Revolution No. 9: A Thriller, 1992
Lights Out, 1994
The Fan, 1995
A Perfect Crime, 1998
Crying Wolf, 2000
Last of the Dixie Heroes, 2001
The Tutor, 2002
Their Wildest Dreams, 2003
Oblivion, 2005
End of Story: A Novel of Suspense, 2006
Nerve Damage, 2007

About the Author:
Peter Abrahams is the bestselling author of Down the Rabbit Hole, Oblivion, The Fan, and Lights Out, for which he received an Edgar Award nomination. Mr. Abrahams makes his home in Falmouth, Massachusetts, with his wife and children.

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair